“What’s Rome’s word?” I asked.
“Sex” he announced.
“But isn’t that a stereotype about Rome?”
“But surely there are SOME people in Rome thinking about other things than sex?”
Giulio insisted: “No. All of them, all day, all they are thinking about is sex.”
“Even over at the Vatican?”
“That’s different. The Vatican isn’t part of Rome. They have a different word over there. Their word is power.” (quotes from ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert)
In the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Elizabeth is asked by a friend what her word was. The word, that described her and her current situation in life best. In her friend’s opinion, every person, every family, every city has a descriptive word. Rome’s, as mentioned, is ‘sex’, the Vatican’s ‘power’ and New York’s ’to achieve’.
Awww, I love descriptions like that! They are so characterizing and fun! So, for obvious reasons, the what’s-your-word-question stuck with me and I have been carrying it in the back of my mind for a few months now.
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that my word—at the moment—is freedom. Triggered by a remark one of my best friends made and which I can’t get out of my head. Close friends and family are often the better observers and this comment hit the mark. Freedom.
Being here in New Zealand and cutting back work for a while, lets me appreciate my free time and my self-determination even more. One example that captures this feeling very well is the following situation from earlier this year:
Half past eleven, on a Friday morning. A sunny and only slightly windy day and I was having a rest after a windsurf session. Overlooking the bay, I was resting on my underarms, feet stretched out, contemplating the blue and green water glistening in the sun. So quiet and beautiful! Apart from two fishermen at the far left end of the bay there was no one around. No one! I practically had the whole beach to myself.
The beauty of an ordinary day I guess. The beauty of being at the beach at 11.30 on a work day, when you would “normally” sit at your desk or be in a meeting—anywhere, really, but not at the beach. Realizing this, it suddenly overwhelmed me.
How many people have the opportunity to enjoy something like that? The opportunity to soak up the quietness and the beautiful view, to enjoy the space and the uncrowdedness? And in that moment it crossed my mind: THIS is the true luxury! This is what I want! This is the freedom I’ve been working towards over the past five years.
It is true luxury for me and I would not exchange it for anything in the world.
I don’t know who among you feels the same way or has had a similar experience. But this is a good example for everyone wondering why I am living such an “unsteady” life. A life split between different places and projects.
Sometimes I have the impression that my longing for freedom is getting even stronger the longer I live the way I do. The more time I spend being self-employed, the more time passes by since quitting my nine-to-five job (or should I say: nine-to-nine job? I was working in an communications agency), the more I realize how much freedom and self-determination mean to me.
The freedom to take a long weekend when I want. The freedom to be where I want to be. The freedom to do what I want. To not be confined to a 24-day (or less) vacation schedule.
And–if you’re interested–it is something YOU could achieve, too!
So yeah, I have the impression that my sense for freedom has been growing over the past years. One of the reasons might be seeing what is possible on a large scale–What is possible once you leave society’s boundaries or your job for a while.
Life on your own terms
And with realizing what’s possible, you start shifting your gears. You start viewing things from a new, different perspective. You start feeling that you are actually entitled to question the dictate of work most people in our Western world live in. That you are entitled to question the things you do and take for granted. You start realizing that you are freer than you have thought.
I am not suggesting that ‘freedom’ is the right word for everyone. For some of you it might be “family” or “travel” or one of a million other beautiful words. Freedom is just what captures my current way of life best, hopefully inspiring you to lead a life on YOUR very own terms.
Moreover, I regard it as a fluent concept. As you go through different stages or phases of life, your word can and most probably will change.
Now you: Have you ever thought about your word? Does it make you excited and happy thinking about it? Or do you feel it’s time for a change?
P.s.: I am very aware of the fact that there are people in certain countries who are not free at all. Who are suppressed, who are deprived of travelling, of even going out on the streets or of speaking out loud. Compared to them, my sense of freedom and the life I live is pure luxury. Nevertheless, I think everyone has the right to make the most of his or her life, make most of the given opportunities, and enjoy it.